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Friday, May 26, 2006

Confront your shame, and honor the heroes 


The Wall Street Journal has a wonderful editorial this morning that asks a couple of very telling questions:

Here's a Memorial Day quiz:

1. Who is Jessica Lynch?

Correct. She's the Army private captured, and later rescued, in the early days of the war.

2. Who is Leigh Ann Hester?

Come on. The Kentucky National Guard vehicle commander was awarded a Silver Star last year for fighting off an insurgent attack on a convoy in Iraq. The first woman to receive a Silver Star since World War II, and the first woman ever to receive one for close combat.

If you don't recognize Sergeant Hester's name, that's not surprising. While Private Lynch's ordeal appears in some 12,992 newspaper and broadcast reports on the Factiva news service, Sergeant Hester and her decoration for extraordinary valor show up in only 162.

One difference: Sergeant Hester is a victor, while Private Lynch can be seen as a victim. And when it comes to media reports about the military these days, victimology is all the rage. For every story about someone who served out of conviction and resolutely went on with his civilian life, there are many more articles about a soldier's failure or a veteran's floundering.

There is no denying this tendency in the press. The question is, what is its cause? Surely some of it derives from the national obsession with victimization that pervades press coverage generally. I do not understand why any fifth tier pseudo-celebrity can attract the attention of the mainstream media by claiming that he was abused as a child, but I assume it is because a large proportion of Americans are fascinated by it. Whether this is because they, too, have been victimized -- at least in their own minds -- or the reverse -- that they feel that they are giving "penance" for their great luck to be living in this amazing country at this prosperous and exciting time -- I do not know.

There is something deeper, though. I think we resent the all-volunteer military. It is a constant rebuke to those of us who might have done more for our country, but decided not to. When the heroes are draftees, we can honor them for having risen above the misfortune of their low draft number. They lost the lottery, and still they thrived. The draftee is not different from us in the choices he made, he simply made the most of his bad fortune. We imagine we might have risen to the same challenge.

When our soldiers are volunteers, however, many of us are both mystified by the decision that they made and embarrassed that we did not make the same decision. We are ashamed by their heroism, because it reminds us of our own self-indulgence. We then compound the insult by not recognizing our own weakness and honoring the heroes in spite of it.

Have the self-awareness to honor the accomplishments of our soldiers, and the choice they made. It seems to me that we owe our soldiers at least that much.

8 Comments:

By Blogger Joshua, at Fri May 26, 09:56:00 AM:

Of course, there's also the small matter that, at least in the minds of the liberal elite, actually honoring the real heroism in the Iraq war is an implicit endorsement of the war itself - and we can't have that now, can we?  

By Blogger Consul-At-Arms, at Fri May 26, 10:46:00 AM:

For years I've heard otherwise perfectly sane people claim they "couldn't" be in the military because they "could never let someone tell them what to do all the time."

Yeah, right. You get over that little mental block about 0.3 seconds after meeting your first drill instructor.

I've linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2006/05/re-confront-your-shame-and-honor.html  

By Blogger Eric Blair, at Fri May 26, 02:11:00 PM:

Spot f***'n on.  

By Anonymous Pasquin, at Fri May 26, 03:54:00 PM:

Thanks, TH. My son enlisted in the Marines just over a year ago. As the former owner of a student deferment, followed by a high enough draft lottery number, I can attest to the truth of your observation. My son is indeed "a constant rebuke to (at least one) of us who might have done more for our country, but decided not to." Ouch!  

By Blogger tcobb, at Fri May 26, 04:47:00 PM:

I think Joshua is right. After all, as far as most of the media goes they proudly proclaim that they support our baby-burning, civilian torturing pscho-killer troops. No contradiction there at all. No, not at all. After all, George Bush made them do it. They're victims too. And they love victims.

But victims really do need to know their place. I mean, once you're a true victim, at least if you're an American, the only aggressive acts permitted are demonstrating and "speaking truth to power." Anything more direct, like shooting back at people who are shooting at you, is considered to be bad form and may result in instant revocation of your victim status, in which case it is permissible for enlightened people to ignore the very fact of your existence. Please note however that different rules apply to victims from third-world countries, who are allowed to indulge themselves in any manner of violent behavior whatsover against people having a non-victim status. And as to why different standards apply, anyone who asks such a question is obviously incapable of understanding the answer, so why should an enlightened person even bother to waste their breathe trying to teach moral calculus to the equivalent of a brain damaged poodle puppy?

I hope my comments have been instructive.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri May 26, 06:14:00 PM:

I was asked a couple of weeks ago by a friend of a friend (after he spotted my dogtags) if I felt like a victim of the government.

After determining that he was serious, I then explained that everyone in the military volunteered for it and that compared to many if not most governments, including their armed forces, ours was positively enlightened. He just smiled and nodded, probably concluding that I must be brainwashed or something.  

By Blogger Cannoneer No. 4, at Fri May 26, 07:13:00 PM:

Why can't we put a bunch of people in a stadium and do something patriotic?

Memorial Day 3-Day Weekend vs Nuremberg Rallies  

By Anonymous C.S. Scott, at Mon May 29, 09:09:00 PM:

Who is Leigh Ann Hester?

More on Leigh Ann Hester, whose actions in combat we named as one of the 20 greatest moments in 2005.  

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